According to Stollenian agents along the frontier, the Zichenauer Army, under General Phllipe de Latte, is gathering just across the border from the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Naturally, word has reached the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and his ministers in Krankenstadt, but the Grand Duke has bigger fish to fry at the moment. Let's eavesdrop on yet another snippet of conversation between him and his long-suffering English manservant Hives late one morning in the Grand Duke's music room.
Irwin-Amadeus II (still in his dressing gown fanning himself) -- Ah, Hives! There you are. Let's have some of that sugary iced tea with mint for which you are so famous. It's dashed hot in here.
Hives (sets tray on handy table, pours tall glass of tea over ice, hands it to his charge) -- The windows and drapes are all open, Sir, to permit some slight air circulation. It is rather warm this morning though. I trust the iced tea is to your liking?
IA -- (takes long drink and savors it) Ah. . . Yes, Hives. It is. Most refreshing, delightfully cool, and all that. Needs a touch more mint though. Now, what's the news from the frontier this morning?
H -- Very good, Sir. It seems that a large army of Zichenauers and allied troops is preparing to march into the Grand Duchy once again, Sir. And they are concentrating on the far side of the River Elbow. Though the precise reason behind Zichenau's sudden declaration of war remains elusive. Something about the visually disturbing nature of a houndstooth and plaid tweed suit worn with tan shoes in the The City, social graces, and. . .
IA (interrupts) -- The Elbow, you say? Hmmm. . . Nonsense, Hives! Nonsense. Those dreadful Zichenauers simply have no sense of style. They wouldn't know it if it hit them over the head. Why that de Latte chap doesn't know a thing about mixing colors, patterns, and textures. He's utterly hidebound by the petty laws of gentlemanly dress when it comes to clothing himself much less anyone else, to say nothing of his allegedly poor grasp of gentlemanly arts in the boudoir I'm told. (sniffs derisively) And he calls himself a Frenchman. Pshaw, I tell you. Pshaw!
H (clears throat gently and hands a calling card to the Grand Duke) -- Sir, you might be interested in this, then, given your well-formed opinions of Frenchmen and their proclivities.
IA -- What? Oh, yes, Hives. Thank you (peers at card through lorgnette). Monsieur de Fenestration? Let's see here. Oh, blast! I wonder what the devil he wants.
H -- Undoubtedly to discuss the progress of the Summer Residenz, Sir.
IA (rolls eyes theatrically toward ceiling and fans himself once more) -- Oh, I'm sure he does, Hives. I'm sure he does. Well, please inform Monsieur de Fenestration that I am otherwise occupied this morning. It's simply too sweltering to sit and listen to his long-winded explanations about why the final touches to that blasted palace have been delayed yet again. First it was problems with the foundation. Then he was unable to get the correct amount of Italian marble for the front steps and Grand Hall. Then there was a problem with the windows and cornice work. And then! Oh! (throws hands into the air) It never ends I tell you.
H (agrees) -- No, Sir.
IA (working himself up into a state) -- I mean what the deuce has he been doing out there in all that time? I've been waiting five years for the work to be finished, so that the Summer Residenz is actually liveable. Five years! And yet here we are, stuck in Krankenstadt Palace for another summer and enduring a particularly hot one I might add. If I had my way, I'd throw that chap out the nearest window. (sneers) Personal Architect to the Dukes of Parma. I'd like to give him the old what-for. Five of my best. Why, I'd like to. . .
H (interrupts gently) -- Indeed, Sir. But may I point out that that would do very little to speed things along at the site of the Summer Residenz. And it is not in keeping with a gentleman's station to be seen throwing French architects from windows.
IA (resigned) -- No, Hives. No. I suppose you're right (takes another sip of iced tea). Still, if de Fenestration were to meet with some sort of unfortunate accident, something unforeseen, unseemly, indecent, and unbecoming. Then, perhaps the situation. . .
H (mildly reproachful)-- Sir, it might not be in your best interest to. . .
IA (cuts him off) -- Come, come now Hives. Joking. Only joking. Where's your sense of humor? In hot weather like this, one must keep it in sight. Just muddling through, you know. Stiff upper lip and all that.
H -- Of course, Sir. Will there be anything else, Sir?
IA -- No, Hives, no. Just pour me some more of that iced tea. Would you? And then ask Monsieur de Fenestration to come back another day. When there is actually something for us to bother riding out to the Summer Residenz site to see.
H -- As you wish, Sir.
IA -- Oh, and Hives?
H -- Sir?
IA -- Run my bath please. Cold water this morning I should think. And lay out my linen suit, spectator shoes, and straw hat too, would you?
H -- As you wish, Sir.
IA -- Thank you, Hives. Thank you. Then have a carriage readied. Once I'm dressed, I think I'll head over to the Brummen und Summen for a spot of lunch. Nothing like warclouds gathering on the ol' horizon to give one a healthy appetite, eh Hives?
H -- Indeed, Sir.
IA -- Very well, Hives. Off you go then. (claps hands) Chop, chop! And be sure to fill that tub full of bracing water. It's hotter than a pretty fräulein's loosely laced dirndl in here.
H (speaking over his shoulder as he exits) -- Very good, Sir.
Curtain Falls. . .